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Convicting Holy Spirit

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The Convicting Holy Spirit

John 16.5-16

Trinity Sunday, June 3, 2007


As on Pentecost Sunday, so too on Trinity Sunday, we turn to the Gospel of John.  Last week we looked at one of three questions the apostles’ asked Jesus.  We looked at Philip’s question – ‘Show us the Father…’ 

We know God only through the revelation of Jesus Christ; and we also see the Fr’s glory in church as we get on with the ‘greater works’ of spreading the good news to the world.

The logic of John 14-15 is that while Jesus will physically depart from them in his death/resurrection/ascension, their connection to him will be like that of a branch to a vine – deeply rooted and closely connected.

And can this be?  The work of the Holy Spirit about whom we learn in today’s reading. 

So, on Trinity Sunday, we’ll look at the work of the 3rd person of the Trinity – often times the forgotten member of the Holy Trinity.

As the time draws near for Jesus’ departure, the questions seemed to have come to a close.  Ahead of them is blackness, sorrow and grief – yet the Holy Spirit is still active.

Why has the Holy Spirit been given to us?

For Jesus says in John 16:7 (ESV)
7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.


The blessings the counselor will bring surpass what Jesus can do in his physical body.  Of course, he was limited in that sense.  It is better for us that he is not in a human body, or else we couldn’t know his power within us.

A friend of mine has spent the last 3 weeks on a trip to Israel.  I’m sure he will come back with a fresh understanding of the Bible, both OT and NT – for he has just walked and traveled along the same roads as Jesus would have, and he has seen the cities which we only read about.

However, a trip to Israel, as valuable as that is (I went once), doesn’t bring you any closer to Jesus.  It brings us closer to the physical setting of the Bible, but it doesn’t bring us any closer to Jesus.

Only the Holy Spirit can do this.

So, let’s look at John 16.5-16 to see what the work of the Holy Spirit is. 

First we will look at the Holy Spirit’s work in the world in verses 8-11

Then we will look at the Holy Spirit’s work in the church or in the believer, 12-15

Point One:  The Holy Spirit’s Work in the World

Not often mentioned.  Mostly the work of the HS that is told us has to do with his work in the life of Christians, but you’ll notice in

John 16:8-11 (ESV)
8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

We read about his work in the world

Jesus says the Holy Spirit will do 3 things:

He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness & judgment:

Concerning sin – cuz they do not believe in me

Concerning righteousness, because I go the father

Concerning Judgment – because the ruler of this world is judged.

1.  To convict

In each case it involves showing someone his or her sin with a view to securing repentance. —Tom Constable's Notes on the Bible


(to show someone his sin and to summon him to repentance—New American



In these verses, however, I believe the meaning of the verb is even more focused so as to suggest something akin to a courtroom procedure. It is a fascinating picture in which one can imagine three elements of the procedure being presented. The first appears to be like a charge for which the defendant has been indicted. The second can be envisioned as the standard to which the defendant is required to conform, and the third can be viewed as the rationale the presiding judge uses to render the verdict. All of these elements can come within the basic meaning of this Greek verb, which is "bring to light, expose, and set forth."

—New American Commentary

  • Of Sin – because they do not believe – this is a charge for which the defendant has been indicted

The world is guilty of sin because…it does not believe in Jesus.  Neither you nor I can convince anybody of this.  It will be the Holy Spirit to awaken us to our rebellion against God – and that is what unbelief is – it is rebellion.  We say, not thanks God, I can live my own way without any help from you.  Or sometimes, despite what we believe, we end up doing things on our own – disregarding the Lord, either neglecting his word or prayer, for instance.

The world needs some convincing here.  It’s not easy for us to admit that we are guilty of anything.

Ex.  Fonz – could never bring himself to admit he was ever w..r..o..n..g.  In fact he couldn’t even say the word.

Or in basketball, where in a game there about 40 fouls – how many do you think people admit was really there fault?  Not many.

No, we love to point to someone else.  Or we like to point out that while we might not be great, we sure are a lot better than that person over there.

The Spirit moves us to see that before God we are guilty.  That’s real guilt.

  • Of righteousness, because I go to the Father, you will no longer see me.  as the standard to which the defendant is required to conform

The Holy Spirit will continue to do what Jesus did when he was among us – and just what is that?

John 3:19-21 (ESV)
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God."


The world is guilty in regard to righteousness – that is moral purity.  Jesus has exposed, by His light, the darkness and hypocrisy of the world. 

John 7:7 (ESV)
7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.

Now that Jesus is going – the Spirit will continue that work.

Jesus has set the standard for judging us – and the standard is his righteousness – his moral purity.  This is a tall standard, beyond any thing we can do, of course, - and that is why, in one instance, Jesus is despised.  He exposes our unrighteousness which we do not like to demonstrate.

Further, there could be one more aspect to this.  Not only will the HS convict us of our lack of righteousness in the face of the one who is perfectly righteous, but it seems that John could also mean that the HS shows (convict in the sense of convince) us that only in Jesus Christ can we find righteousness – for Christ is our righteousness.

1 Corinthians 1:30 (ESV)
30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

In other words, the HS enables us to see Christ, not simply as a wonderful man who died for a good cause (as I used to think) – but as God’s Messiah who died for us men and for our salvation. 


  • Concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged

Now the case is completed. The verdict of the court can be rendered. It is "Guilty!" But the guilty verdict did not merely apply to the opponents of Jesus--the world. John saw the bigger picture. There has been an evil hand at work in the world, and any modern attempt to demythologize this prince of the world will receive the same verdict as the evil ruler.


Jesus’ ministry, climaxing in his death and resurrection, has achieved the condemnation and driving out of Satan –

John 12:31 (ESV)
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.

This work is a foretaste of the Devil’s final demise at judgment.  The Holy Spirit will bring people to a realization of their position regarding the final judgment – some will respond to Jesus; others will remain in the world.

The Paraclete's forensic task here then is portrayed in the presence of the disciples and in the Johannine court of God like a counselor and judge in bringing to just judgment the world and its rebellious prince. This section then is not unrelated to the way Jesus had earlier been pictured as having been given the authority to render all judgment by the Father —New American Commentary

Part Two:  The Holy Spirit’s Work in the Church (Believers) 12-14

John 16:12-14 (ESV)
12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.


The HS will lead the Apostles ‘into all truth’ and thus bring glory to Jesus.  Along with his ministry in the world, the HS will guide the Apostles into all truth about Jesus and about the Father.

Notice, the HS is not leading the Apostles into new truth as some seem to think it says, but into all truth

The HS will teach every generation of Christians the truth about Jesus – and in that sense, he will lead us into all the truth that has been revealed in Jesus and in the Scriptures.

Obviously this is so, because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  There is no truth beyond him.  He is the last word of God to humankind.  It is futile to look for more and new truth beyond Jesus; if so, then we make Jesus out to be insufficient.

One more thing about the ministry of the HS – As JI Packer says, the HS is the self-effacing person of the Trinity.  He does not draw attention to himself, but to Jesus Christ.  Like a spotlight on a building – it is there to bring light on the building, not on itself.

And the Holy Spirit, shed abroad to all believers since the day of Pentecost – continues his ministry to this day. 

Acts 1:8 (ESV)
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

He guides us into all the truth and enables us to be messengers of that truth to the world – where the HS convicts of sin, righteousness & judgment. 


The Spirit’s ministry is to convict – the apostles, and our ministry, is to witness or to testify.  The church’s work is to continue that testimony.  It is not that there is more truth for the Spirit to reveal about Jesus; rather that he has led the apostles in all truth about Jesus.

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